Hot Take: When the scariest moment is a tight shot of an umbrella opening, you’ve got major problems. The tagline, “First you watch it. Then you die…” must have gotten cut off because that second sentence should end with “of boredom.”
The Ring was one of the scariest movies I can remember. Since 2002, it hasn’t slid very far down my personal unwritten list of “Scariest Movies Ever Seen.” The Ring 2 released in 2005 and while not nearly as scary as The Ring, it was a bizarre, watchable sequel. However, you could feel the film’s content was grasping at straws to deliver a second helping of the original. Fast forward to 2017 and we’re “treated” to another installment. Unfortunately, Rings, the third film in the trilogy, is the weakest effort of the bunch. The first 30 minutes feels eerie enough but you realize early on nothing much is going to happen in this toothless horror flick that goes nowhere fast but not fast enough.
Expectations are never high for a deteriorating horror franchise such as The Ring franchise. So, a third chapter doesn’t have a high bar to clear. Rings never comes close to even clearing that bar. The lead cast is relatively new to the big screen with Italian actress Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz in the lead role of Julia who watches the video in order to save her boyfriend, played by relative newcomer Alex Roe, from the death that comes after 7 days of watching. There’s an attempt to legitimize the movie with the supporting cast as Johnny Galecki sleepwalks through an easy paycheck and Vincent D’Onofrio makes a futile attempt to class up the joint.
One of the biggest reasons Rings fails? 2015’s It Follows beat Rings to the punch with a very similar plot. Instead of watching a video, It Follows uses sex as the carrier of the death sentence. In an age of e-mail and YouTube, it seems like passing along your death sentence to someone else would be too simple of a problem to rid yourself of to waste 7 days trying to find another way out. As willing participants near closer to their 7th day and inevitable death, it’s hard to imagine someone not uploading the video to the Internet out of shear desperation. These aren’t skeptics who wait until the last minute only to realize the death sentence is real. These are people who buy into the Samara myth and have a sense of urgency.
Essentially, Rings offers nothing new to the franchise and even borrows from some other horror films to try and achieve success. You’ll recognize Don’t Breathe when you see it, the opening reeks of Final Destination and there’s the previously mentioned It Follows looming over the proceedings. The film does go meta, though. Somewhere in the first half of the film, Julia reads a text from boyfriend Holt but we know it’s meant for us: “DON’T WATCH IT!” If only we received that message in the first 5 minutes.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Vincent D’Onofrio
D’Onofrio is always fun to watch even in one of his worst roles in years. He gets around so Rings is not a stretch or even a blemish on his resume as he brings quality to the quantity of films he’s appeared in even when the film itself is substandard.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Time Does Not Heal All
Over the years since The Ring became a smash hit, it has been the target of a number of parodies and, over time, the image of Samara crawling out of a random video screen is no longer scary. Pop culture killed the horror star. Even with a 12 year gap, the images are not fresh and the story can’t escape itself to deliver anything frighteningly new.
- Downhill Racer
The first 20-30 minutes of Rings are actually a little promising. You think, “Maybe this won’t be awful.” The next hour-plus could win a gold medal for the speed at which the movie goes downhill.